The bizarre, disturbing pictures of a bloody and desperate hotel room scene in the CD booklet; song titles like "Lactating Teens" and "Quid Pro Quo Motherfucker" that belie the deep lyrical tirades; arrangements that fuse order with chaos, this is "Pictures from the Hotel Apocalypse". And it is quintessential SINCE BY MAN.
Even compared to "We Sing the Body Electric", the new album takes patience and time and reflection to sink in for it to make its full impact. You do not skip to a favorite track; you either play the disc in its entirety or you don't; the end payoff does possess a degree of lasting appeal. The "dance" factor (for lack of a better term) present on parts of "A Love Hate Relationship" is heard only on the periphery of songs like "Young America". Add hand claps to the freak-out rhythms of the tune and you'd almost be there, albeit in a herky-jerky dance kind of way. With the discordant riffs, the minor chords, and the off-kilter rhythms, tracks like "Emergency and Me" begin to reveal certain memorable qualities, as does "Match on Action". Female vocals courtesy of guest player Ashley Chapman, including the harmony lines on the seven-minute "Photographer Ex Post Facto" or the call-and-response sections on "Quid Pro Quo Motherfucker" are more examples of the band's willingness to layer its sound. Programmed electronic elements (i.e. "Binary Heart Attack") return on "Pictures from the Hotel Apocalypse" as well.
Through it all, vocalist Sam Macon leads a full frontal hardcore-fueled assault that is made even more challenging by the dueling guitars of Brad Clifford and Kevin Herwig (pay attention to what these two are playing on the album). While there is no definable downside, and even with the qualities that continue to grow on me, it is still one that I have difficulty returning to for additional listens, the only reason it's not an 8 to my ears. That said, I'd not be surprised to see higher ratings given by other reviewers.